There is no doubt that much needs to be done on education and skill development in government schools. While government schools spend more on children than private schools, they always end up with lower learning outcomes. Out of the R1,85,180 crore spent annually on elementary education, government schools account for R1,17,841 crore. One problem relates to the difference between allocations proposed and those approved. In 2013-14, only 51% of what was proposed in the budget was approved, which improved marginally to 58% in 2014-15. The other problem area is that almost 80% of the money was used to pay teachers’ salaries. That could increase once the forthcoming Seventh Pay Commission recommendations are implemented.
For things to change, there is a greater need to bring in accountability in education. One way is to make teachers accountable for learning levels. According to Accountability Initiative, a unit of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, India will need to spend R2,32,000 crore to bring learning levels in government schools on a par with private institutions. It is time the government started looking at this closely. After all, the great demographic dividend the country’s youth population promises could prove to be a demographic millstone unless quick steps are taken to educate.